The expression pattern of zebrafish hoxa1a mRNA during embryonic development was studied. Herein, we show that hoxa1a mRNA is expressed in the ventral region of both the midbrain and anterior hindbrain during the developmental period from the pharyngula to the protruding-mouth stages via whole-mount in situ hybridization. Furthermore, double-labeling with anti-zHu antibody confirms that the zebrafish hoxa1a gene is expressed in neuronal cells. The observed temporal and spatial distributions of zebrafish hoxa1a mRNA differ greatly from the expression patterns of zebrafish hoxb1a and hoxb1b paralagous genes. In addition, in embryos injected with mouse ihh mRNA, hoxa1a-expressing cells increase in number with a dorsalized expression pattern in the midbrain.